A perhaps misleadingly restrictive title for a folio of some eight autobiographical pieces dealing with Mary McCarthy's past when as the eldest of "poor Roy's children"- her parents died during the influenza epidemic of 1918- she shuttled between two sets of grandparents and three religions- Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. Under the monitory supervision of the Catholic McCarthys in Minneapolis, the four young ones were turned over to a blood relative, Aunt Margaret- a "well-aged quince of 45" whose regimen of prunes and parsnips, no toys or books was supplemented by the capricious brutality of her husband Myers. Removed by "the Protestants", her grandfather Preston and his Jewish wife, to Scattle, there followed a period of quieter discipline in a Catholic convent where she lost her faith; the transfer to an Episcopalian boarding school and infractions of another nature; a summer in Montana and her introduction to whisky under the tutelage of a married druggist; and the pieces conclude with an unforgettable portrait of her grandmother Augusta Morgenstern and the elaborate ritual of her days.... Time has not dulled the sharpness of the image and incident here, and the portraiture has an exceptional definition to which the polished prose- there is never a flubbed phrase- is certainly contributory. There is also a warmth, and an often gamine charm, absent from her fiction, which may attract others beyond her anticipated audience (although Catholic readers have already been aroused on the initial publication of these pieces.) (Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
MARY MCCARTHY (1912-1989) was a short-story writer, bestselling novelist, essayist, and critic. She was the author of The Stones of Florence and Birds of America, among other books.